NEW York state has approved a fund that will award a one-time $15,600 stimulus payment to illegal workers.
The $2.2billion program for "excluded workers" will provide payments for hundreds of thousands of people who are not eligible for other government aid but has been criticized by Republican lawmakers.
It was approved on Tuesday as part of the state's $212billion budget deal after being among the most contentious issues that dragged debate past the April 1 deadline.
Republicans branded it as "out of touch" when many other New Yorkers are struggling.
Democrats in swing districts in upstate New York and Long Island also fear that it could be used against them in future elections, the New York Times reports.
“The question is not, do you help these workers, it is how do you do it and how do you structure it in a way where it is defensible in these districts,” said Bruce Gyory, a Democratic political consultant.
He added that suburban voters will see the move as expensive and unfair for citizens.
Yet it was passed after activists went on hunger strike to call for the money.
Even as the fund was passed this week, a rift emerged among New York Democrats.
Freshman Assemblywoman Amanda Septimo and fellow Dem Assemblyman Thomas Abinanti engaged in a Twitter spat as the issue came to a head.
“Yes, I gave you the finger after you called me a ‘smart ass,’ which many people can confirm,” Septimo tweeted.
“You will not disrespect me & go unanswered.
“I didn’t misrepresent anything about you, but you chose to call me out of my name,” she added.
"She gave me the finger while I was speaking in the Democratic Conference about people misrepresenting my position on the excluded worker bill?” Abinanti hit back.
“My response less offensive than her gesture.”
Undocumented workers were hit hard during the coronavirus pandemic as thousands lost jobs with no hope of unemployment payments or stimulus checks.
“I’ve met neighbors who have not been able to pay rent, or put food on the table, or been able to provide their children with a laptop when a public school has not been able to provide one,” State Senator Jessica Ramos, a Democrat from Queens, told the Times.
The left-leaning Fiscal Policy Institute estimated that the "excluded workers" fund could benefit 290,000 people statewide.
The $15,600 they would receive will be equivalent to $300 per week for the last year.
In order to receive the money, the migrants must verify that they were state residents last year who were ineligible for federal unemployment benefits and lost income as a result of the pandemic.
A lower sum of $3,200 will also be available for those who can prove at least their residency and identity.
The fund in New York dwarves a similar relief program already established in California.
Officials there set up a $75million cash assistance program last year.
It awarded undocumented immigrants a $500 one-time payment on a first-come, first-serve basis.
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